Ed’s Note: Bethan is seven. She has been attending free weekly ballet lessons at Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) as part of their Dance Track programme, after being selected when a team from BRB came to her school. BRB are keen to reach children ‘who often wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to participate in dance’ and to ‘introduce the young participants and their families to ballet and to incite an interest in the art form’.
For our BREVIEW of BRB’s Cinderella, a returning production that gathered some momentum on tour, I wanted this perspective. The following was written by Bethan and her mum, Jenny, without direction from either BRB or myself. Bethan probably has better grammar than I.
I want to thank both Bethan and Jenny for their contribution, as well as BRB for playing along with this approach.
Words by Bethan & Jenny
Cinderella. We all know the story, and non better than my Disney-fanatic seven-year-old daughter. The magic, the romance, the happily ever after… all of which Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) most certainly delivered on, in their true to Disney style production.
Wednesday evenings, for Bethan and I, usually follow the standard homework, dinner, bath and bed routine. So imagine the excitement of a little girl, a little bit in love with ballet, getting ready to go to the opening night of one of her all time favourite love stories on stage. Bethan chose her best party dress and most sparkling jewellery to wear, and a glamorous bow for her hair. “I’ve got to look pretty mummy,” she told me, “it IS the opening night AND Prince Charming will be there.”
Upon our arrival at the Hippodrome we were greeted by a friendly chap from BRB. He shook my daughter’s hand, said he had heard all about her and that he couldn’t wait to read her review. He even invited her to another production.
As we made our way to our seats, Bethan’s excitement doubled. She saw The Nutcracker last year, another fantasy production from Birmingham Royal Ballet, but we were quite far away from the stage. When Bethan realised tonight we were only six rows back she was over the moon, “I’ll be able to see their faces!”
We took our seats, the lady next to Bethan helping with her booster seat, and as the hush fell across the theatre she gripped my hand with anticipation.
Well, Act One certainly didn’t disappoint. The dance, props and costumes all helped Bethan to understand exactly who each character was and what they were doing. She found humour in the performance of the ugly sisters, felt sad for cinders as she was tormented, and was in awe of the fearsome wicked stepmother.
As the story continued, the magical transformation of a dreary Cinderella clutching a pumpkin – along with two lizards, two mice and a frog – into a stunning coach and some handsome footmen, all added to the magic. Sadly this was a short-lived scene, and we both felt a little cheated out of the chance to enjoy it for a little longer before Act One was over.
The ballet dancers really came in to their own in Act Two, which was dedicated to the ball. Bethan has been learning ballet through the Dance Track programme with Birmingham Royal Ballet, after being selected from tryouts at her school, and was delighted to be able to recognise a few dance moves from her own lessons.
We both had a giggle at the clumsy dances of the two truly awful step sisters, trying to woo the Prince with their own unique charms (when not distracted by a waiter carrying a plate of cakes piled high) but to no effect. Of course, then the famous shoe was abandoned on the steps and, as the clock struck midnight, the curtain fell on Act Two.
Much of Act Three was dedicated to the Prince searching for his true love, running around the stage whilst being hotly perused by the many eligible maidens, and balancing on an ever increasing pile of shoes. When Cinderella and her Prince were finally reunited, the curtain fell as they wondered in to the moonlight, hand in hand, much to the delight of my seven year old theatre companion.
Although rather tired, Bethan had loved every second of her special night out at the ballet. She had engaged with the whole performance from start to finish, understanding the story and empathising with the leading lady. But with such incredible acting and dancing talent on the stage, alongside the clever costumes and set design, this could be an amazing experience for all ages in the audience.
For more from Birmingham Royal Ballet, visit www.brb.org.uk
For more on BRB’s Dance Track programme, visit www.brb.org.uk/up-close/dance-education/dance-track
For more from Birmingham Hippodrome, including a full prgramme of events and online ticket sales, visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com